Friday, 23 March 2012

Walking in the Footsteps of my Ancestors [Part 1]

Today I get to meet Lillie, my grandfather's first cousin.  They never knew one another because they lived on opposite sides of the world.  I met Lillie 'by post' 5 years ago, when I was given her name by her neice who I'd met online while researching my Irish family.  Lillie was 86 years old then.  She is now 91.   
One of my new found cousins [Lillie's neice] who I met for the first time last night at dinner, picked me up from Myra's & took me to meet Lillie.
I had been looking forward to this meeting since writing to Lillie 5 years ago telling her that I wanted to come visit her.    When I walked into the residential home where Lillie was now living & asked for directions to her room, the nurses welcomed me & said "You've come from New Zealand to visit Lillie haven't you"!?   Apparently lovely Lillie had  told them all that I was coming.
I loved meeting Lillie.  It will stay up there as one of the highlights of my trip to Ireland.  After an hour of chatting, I arranged another visit in a couple of days time, before I left Enniskillen. 

Ballinamallard, nr Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh
The second half of my day was going to be spent visiting places that would have been familiar to my great grandmother Lizzie, when she lived here & I'd had the kind offer from another cousin who was at dinner last night, to drive me around for the afternoon. 

Ballinamallard, Enniskillen
Second-Hand Shop, Ballinamallard, Co. Fermanagh
The Poachers Inn, Ballinamallard, nr Enniskillen
We visited all those places that Lizzie would have known very well  when growing up on the farm at Coa & Ballinamallard & it felt surreal, that I was walking around the places where she would have walked before me.

The home & farm where she lived has remained in the family and is now owned by her great nephew.

The Emerson farm, Coa, Enniskillen

It was a wet day but the drizzle held off as we drove around the farm & farmyards.  We stopped to feed the Cows in the barn, housed there over the winter, unlike the grazing practices of stock in New Zealand, where cattle & sheep are fed out in the fields on forage crops & hay during the winter.
Cows housed in the barn, enjoying the feed, Coa Farm, Enniskillen
During the time when Lizzie was a girl, there were three other dwellings on the farm, all with tenants & their families living in them.  These uninhabitated old cottages are still located around the farm.
Derelict cottage, Coa Farm, Enniskillen

Old uninhabited cottage, Coa Farm, Enniskillen

Cottage ruins, Coa Farm, Enniskillen

Derelict Barn, Coa Farm, Enniskillen

Coa Farm, Enniskillen

Coa Farm, Enniskillen

Woodland & boggy marsh, Coa Farm, Enniskillen

Tangled branches, Coa Farm, Enniskillen

Boggy Marshland, Coa Farm, Enniskillen
Following the trip around the farm I was taken on to Tempo to visit the Tempo Church & Graveyard where Lizzie's parents, my great great grandparents, John & Mary Anne Emerson were buried.  While there is no sign of a gravestone in the Tempo cemetery, records show that their plots are close to this grave [in photo below] & there is some belief that since their burial over 100 years ago, the plot has had other extended members of the family buried there as well. with new gravestones erected. 
Tempo Church, Tempo, Enniskillen
Emerson grave, Tempo Church, Tempo, Enniskillen
Just a couple of miles from Tempo on the main road back to Enniskillen, we stopped briefly at the Historic Pubble Cemetery.   It is thought that this place was used as a burial ground for over 1000 years.   The word Pubble actually means "people". It is believed that St. Patrick preached to a multitude of people right here at this place. Some 200 years later a wooden church was built.   That was eventually replaced by a new stone building with a thatched roof.   Then, towards the end of the 18th Century, a new church was built in the village of Tempo and the church here at Pubble fell into ruins.

Pubble Cemetery & Pubble Church, nr Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh

Pubble Cemetery, nr Enniskillen
Historic Pubble Cemetery, Enniskillen
Pubble Cemetery, nr Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh
 The earliest legible headstones to be found in the graveyard today date back to 1707. 

An early gravestone from the 1700's, Pubble Cemetery, Enniskillen
The meaning of the strange pictures  on the headstones are known as 'Mortality Symbols'. 
The skull and cross-bones [top] is a well known symbol for death. The coffin [bottom]  and the bell [left] represent a funeral. The hour glass [right] represents the time running out!

Stone steps at Pubble Cemetery, nr Enniskillen
By the time I got dropped off back at Myra's, it was time to get ready for going out for dinner again.  This time Myra took us out to the Manor House Hotel on the shores of Lower Lough Erne about 7 miles out of Enniskillen.  The origins of Manor House Country Hotel date back to the 17th century.  The opulence of the Hotel is apparent as soon as you walk through the doors & immediately I felt under-dressed.  Fortunately, we headed down to the Cellar Door Bar & Bistro where the dress code was a lot more casual. 

The Manor House Hotel, Enniskillen


  1. Thank you for the wonderful pictures of Coa and of those old farm houses. My Donnelly family also came from Coa - most likely the Emmerson's and Donnelly's knew each other. I would love to email you. Also, if you don't object, I would like to include one of you pictures in the book I'm writing about my Donnelly ancestors.


    1. Coa is such a small place, our ancestors would surely have known one another.Thank you for getting in touch.